Hori Lal, 35, came to work at the Kumbh Mela from Dhoraita village of Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district. He recalls with fascination the hour he spent with the four others in a locked room waiting for the PM to arrive, and the camera flashes that went off as he washed and wiped their feet. “We had been told he would meet us, not that he would wash our feet,” he says. It was embarrassing to have such “a big man” wash their feet, Hori says, adding that he had taken a “thorough” bath that day.

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Belonging to the Valmiki community, Hori has been here since November with his family, including wife Rajkumari (32), and sons Amit (15), Akash (12) and Kapil (10). The children go to an anganwadi school at the mela while Rajkumari also works as a sanitation worker.